TUCSON – Real Salt Lake had an unlikely hero in its FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup opener on Wednesday night, with reserve goalkeeper Lalo Fernandez playing a leading role in the Claret-and-Cobalt’s scoreless draw against the New England Revolution.
One of 11 RSL players to come off the bench at the hour mark, the 21-year-old Fernandez pulled off a huge save in the 90th minute, making a fine reaction stop on a header from New England midfielder Donnie Smith to preserve the shutout and give the Claret-and-Cobalt a point.
“It was a foul on my left side, the cross went to the second post and their guy managed to win the header,” Fernandez said. “He got it on target, but – thanks to God – I was able to get my hand there and push it away.”
The save was another positive step in Fernandez’s development, a path that saw him graduate from the RSL-Arizona Academy and sign with Uruguayan club C.A. Peñarol in 2011 before joining RSL as a Homegrown player in the 2012 preseason. Now entering his third-year as a pro, Fernandez is looking this year to build on a 2013 season that saw him appear in six games for the RSL Reserves.
One thing Fernandez thinks will help him this season? RSL’s tremendous knowledge at the goalkeeper position. In addition to more senior teammates Nick Rimando and Jeff Attinella, Fernandez has former Goalkeeper Coach and current Head Man Jeff Cassar and current Goalkeeper Coach Daryl Shore to lean on in 2014.
“Having Jeff and Daryl here is like having two great goalie coaches at the same time,” Fernandez said. “It’s like double, like having two fathers and two mothers. They’re great and hopefully I can learn a lot from them.”
“Personally, I want to make all my opportunities count this year,” he continued. “I’ve been growing the entire time I’ve been at RSL, and I feel good. Now I just need to get better and better every day and make good when I do have my chances, regardless of when they come.”